Boots on the ground

Wright State welcomes veterans and first responders spreading the meaning of Memorial Day and honoring fallen heroes

For the third consecutive year, Wright State University has welcomed hikers participating in Carry the Load, a month-long nationwide relay tribute to military service members, first responders and their families.

Dozens of Wright State faculty and staff clapped and cheered as five participants arrived on the Dayton Campus carrying American flags and escorted by Wright State police cruisers. The hour-long stopover took place at the Captain Sean L. English Champion Garden outside the Wright State Veteran and Military Center on May 16.

“I think everyone carries something,” said Kurt Holden, director of public safety at Wright State. “Especially when you’re in police, military, firefighting, any type of first-responder or public safety field, you’re carrying the load of others.”

Fairborn firefighter Carl Fugate participated in the morning march from Fairborn Station 3 to Wright State in full firefighter safety gear. Fugate said he was walking to spread the memory of Fairborn police Detective Steven Jahns and help remove the stigma of talking about mental illness.

“At the end of the day we’ve all experienced the same traumas and the same triumphs,” said Fugate.

The Carry the Load hikers began their relay in Minneapolis and will travel 20,000 miles before concluding with the Dallas Memorial March on Memorial Day weekend.

Curtis Bell, a Marine veteran and medic for Carry the Load, is traveling with the group for its full route, from Minneapolis through his hometown of Dallas. Bell said he was impressed with the spaces that Wright State provides for its student veterans.

“It’s refreshing to see the community embrace the veteran community and really support them,” said Bell.

The Champion Garden was named in honor of Capt. Sean L. English, a 1999 Wright State and Army ROTC graduate. English was killed in action in Iraq in 2006. The garden was dedicated in English’s honor during an outdoor ceremony on Sept. 8, 2023.

The Veteran and Military Center provided breakfast and refreshments during the event.

The Carry the Load relay departed Wright State’s Dayton Campus and headed to the Dayton National Cemetery before traveling to its next stop in Cincinnati.

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